Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other members of the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) have threatened to leave Pakistan after the country granted powers to local regulators to censor digital content.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this week granted the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority the power to remove and block digital content that might harm, intimidate or incite disapproval of the government or hurt the integrity, security, and defense of Pakistan. The law was proposed in February.
On Friday, the AIC submitted recommendations for the Pakistan Personal Data Protection Bill, which the country published in April.
“The protection of personal data is an important component of any privacy framework and we appreciate the opportunity to provide additional feedback on the Draft Bill,” the AIC wrote in a blog post. “We recognize the on-going efforts of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications (“MOITT”) in further fine-tuning the draft legislation … [but] in its current form, this draft presents significant interoperability issues and falls short of international best practices.”
The statement goes on to explain how it will adversely impact Pakistan’s digital strategy and make it difficult for foreign companies to operate their services to Pakistani businesses and users.
The AIC believes the rules would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to provide their services to Pakistani users and businesses, and urges the government to work with these companies on “practical, clear rules that protect the benefits of the internet and keep people safe from harm.”
AIC members also include Apple, Airbnb, Expedia Group, LinkedIn, Rakuten, SAP, Yahoo and others.
Based on the new rule, Pakistan earlier this year banned PUBG Mobile. Last month it temporarily blocked TikTok.
Under the new law, tech companies that reportedly fail to remove or block the unlawful content from their platforms within 24 hours of notice from Pakistan authorities can face a fine of up to $3.14 million.
The country also now requires companies to have a local office.